pianist • composer

H eather Taves performs in classical, contemporary, and folk idioms as a pianist, improvisor and composer. She has recorded 5 albums. Heather is an organic gardener and cook, presents house concerts, and is involved with community sustainability projects. Initially emerging as a classical artist, her graduation recital from McGill University at age nineteen was broadcast across Canada by the CBC. Winning a Canada Council Grant to obtain her Master of Music at Indiana University, she joined the legendary piano class of Gyorgy Sebok, but simultaneously discovered her interests in world music, early music, and jazz. After graduating, she performed over 80 concerts a year while teaching at the McGill Conservatory in Montreal. Since obtaining her doctorate at Stony Brook in New York, she has served as a piano professor in Ontario, first at Brock University and since 1996 at Wilfrid Laurier University. The New York critic Greg Sandow has praised Heather’s path-breaking curriculum to help students develop their own voice through improvisation and community engagement.

Creativity for Teen Pianists

Creativity. What does the word mean when it comes to teen piano students in the 21st century? A former student, now a pianist, told me last Friday that while judging a piano competition for teens, she’d been amazed by the high level of playing. “High, but maybe narrow?” I asked. “Right – they all played Chopin,” she agreed. She herself has developed a viable performing career by playing lots of contemporary music. I wonder how many of these kids, or their parents, would be surprised by the kind of creative entrepreneurship her career has required? Here I have to say this: I too was obsessed with Chopin as a teenager. I don’t know how many times I listened to that wonderful old vinyl album, A Young Person’s Introduction to Chopin. That said, I also loved Top 40 (especially Bowie’s Space Oddity), Bartok’s Dances in Bulgarian Rhythm, Dave Brubeck’s Take Five, writing songs, and trying to figure out how to play my favourite symphonies by ear on the piano. What can teen pianists do to explore their creative potential? In the 21st century, there are so many creative music possibilies that employ electronic devices. I’m all in favour of those, but that’s another post. Today, I’d like to share a low-tech list of possibilities. These are things I did as a teen – for fun, because they really were fun. They’re cheap or free, they’re possible even when far from major cultural centres, and far from becoming out-dated, they’ve never been more relevant. All are crucial to build a viable 21st century career. 1. Whenever learning a standard work, buy... read more

Why a Law Firm Hired a Music Graduate

Last week, I was interrupted in my piano teaching by the phone. “Hello, it’s Lukas Riley.” “Lukas! Long time no see, how are you?” “I hope I’m not bothering you, just wanted to tell you that I’ve been accepted to my first choice of law school in Toronto!” I asked Lukas whether he could write me a letter with feedback about how a music degree may have helped or hindered him along the way. With his permission, I’m sharing what he wrote. “My name is Lukas Riley, and I am currently in my 2nd year (of 3) at the Faculty of Law at Queen’s University. I am, however, an alumni of the music program at Wilfrid Laurier University, from which I graduated in 2012. Recently, I have been lucky enough to obtain employment at a large labour and employment law firm, Hicks Morley LLP, through the Queen’s Law “On-Campus Interview” process. I will be beginning my employment at Hicks Morley during the summer of 2015, and I will continue to work there after graduating from law school for my articling period. Many people ask me about how I made the transition from music to law, and if I feel like having a music degree has helped and/or set me back throughout my legal studies and law-job applications. My answer is always that my music degree from WLU over-prepared me for law school, and that given the chance to “restart” my education, I would follow the same path once again. After beginning my studies at Queen’s Law, I found my music degree becoming more and more valuable each day. I... read more

Preparing a work for the first lesson

  I’d like to talk about the first lesson or two on a new piece of music.  How do you prepare for that kind of lesson? Here’s a checklist that I hope may benefit you.  (If you have time, you could try a few of the “go further” suggestions.)     Dr. Heather Taves is an Associate Professor of Piano in the Faculty of Music at Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, Canada.           Do I know the title of the work and its translation, its catalogue number, its composition date, the composer’s name and dates, and the meaning of every word of text in the score? To go further, check periodicals for current research on the work or composer. Read an article, form opinions about it, and bring it along to the lesson.           For historical works, have I visited the library to browse the ML410 section for a biography of the composer, looking up my particular work in the indexes of books? Or, in the case of a contemporary work, can I provide background information about the composer and work? To go further, sight-read through other works written by the composer. Share observations with your teacher.           Have I learned something about the edition I am using, and read the editor’s notes? To go further, compare it with other editions, such as those found on IMSLP or in your library.           Have I listened to several versions of the work, writing down the names of the performers and learning something about their careers? ... read more